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Eneolithic, Aeneolithic
or Copper Age
Stone Age


Naqada culture, Gerzeh culture, A-Group culture, C-Group culture, Kerma culture

West Asia

Ghassulian culture, Uruk period


Yamna culture, Corded Ware
Cernavodă culture, Decea Mureşului culture, Gorneşti culture, Gumelniţa–Karanovo culture, Petreşti culture, Coțofeni culture
Remedello culture, Gaudo culture, Monte Claro culture

Central Asia

Yamna culture, Botai culture, BMAC culture, Afanasevo culture

South Asia

Periodisation of the Indus Valley Civilisation, Bhirrana culture, Hakra Ware culture, Kaytha culture, Ahar–Banas culture
Savalda Culture, Malwa culture, Jorwe culture


Metallurgy, Wheel,
Domestication of the horse
Bronze Age

The Chalcolithic (English: /ˌkælkəˈlɪθɪk/ ), [1] a name derived from the Greek : χαλκόςkhalkós, "copper" and from λίθοςlíthos, "stone" [1] or Copper Age, [1] also known as the Eneolithic [1] or Aeneolithic [2] (from Latin aeneus "of copper") is an archaeological period which researchers usually regard as part of the broader Neolithic (although scholars originally defined it as a transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age). In the context of Eastern Europe, archaeologists often prefer the term "Eneolithic" to "Chalcolithic" or other alternatives.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Copper Chemical element with atomic number 29

Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.

Rock (geology) A naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids

A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its chemical composition and the way in which it is formed. Rocks are usually grouped into three main groups: igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks. Rocks form the Earth's outer solid layer, the crust.


In the Chalcolithic period, copper predominated in metalworking technology. Hence it was the period before it was discovered that adding tin to copper formed bronze (a harder and stronger metal). The archaeological site of Belovode, on Rudnik mountain in Serbia has the oldest securely-dated evidence of copper smelting, from 7000 BP (c. 5000 BC). [3] [4]

Metalworking process of making items from metal; production and processing of shaped workpieces made of metals

Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large-scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills, processes, and tools.

Tin Chemical element with atomic number 50

Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn (from Latin: stannum) and atomic number 50. Tin is a silvery metal that characteristically has a faint yellow hue. Tin, like indium, is soft enough to be cut without much force. When a bar of tin is bent, the so-called tin cry can be heard as a result of sliding tin crystals reforming; this trait is shared by indium, cadmium, and frozen mercury. Pure tin after solidifying keeps a mirror-like appearance similar to most metals. However, in most tin alloys (such as pewter) the metal solidifies with a dull gray color. Tin is a post-transition metal in group 14 of the periodic table of elements. It is obtained chiefly from the mineral cassiterite, which contains stannic oxide, SnO2. Tin shows a chemical similarity to both of its neighbors in group 14, germanium and lead, and has two main oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4. Tin is the 49th most abundant element on Earth and has, with 10 stable isotopes, the largest number of stable isotopes in the periodic table, thanks to its magic number of protons. It has two main allotropes: at room temperature, the stable allotrope is β-tin, a silvery-white, malleable metal, but at low temperatures, it transforms into the less dense grey α-tin, which has the diamond cubic structure. Metallic tin does not easily oxidize in air.

Bronze metal alloy

Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or silicon. These additions produce a range of alloys that may be harder than copper alone, or have other useful properties, such as stiffness, ductility, or machinability.

The Copper Age in the Ancient Near East began in the late 5th millennium BC and lasted for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age. The transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe occurs about the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC.

Ancient Near East home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East

The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, ancient Iran, Anatolia/Asia Minor and Armenian Highlands, the Levant, Cyprus and the Arabian Peninsula. The ancient Near East is studied in the fields of Near Eastern archaeology and ancient history.

The 5th millennium BC spanned the years 5000 through 4001 BC. It saw the spread of agriculture from Western Asia throughout Southern and Central Europe.

Bronze Age Europe

The European Bronze Age is characterized by bronze artifacts and the use of bronze implements. The regional Bronze Age succeeds the Neolithic. It starts with the Aegean Bronze Age in 3200 BC (succeeded by the Beaker culture), and spans the entire 2nd millennium BC in Northern Europe, lasting until c. 600 BC.


The multiple names result from multiple recognitions of the period. Originally, the term Bronze Age meant that either copper or bronze was being used as the chief hard substance for the manufacture of tools and weapons.

In 1881, John Evans recognized that use of copper often preceded the use of bronze, and distinguished between a transitional Copper Age and the Bronze Age proper. He did not include the transitional period in the three-age system of Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age, but placed it outside the tripartite system, at its beginning. He did not, however, present it as a fourth age but chose to retain the traditional tripartite system.[ citation needed ]

John Evans (archaeologist) English archaeologist and geologist

Sir John Evans was an English archaeologist and geologist.

Three-age system Hominin events for the last 10 million years

The three-age system is the periodization of history into time periods divisible by three; for example: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age; although it also refers to other tripartite divisions of historic time periods. In history, archaeology and physical anthropology, the three-age system is a methodological concept adopted during the 19th century by which artifacts and events of late prehistory and early history could be ordered into a recognizable chronology. It was initially developed by C. J. Thomsen, director of the Royal Museum of Nordic Antiquities, Copenhagen, as a means to classify the museum’s collections according to whether the artifacts were made of stone, bronze, or iron.

In 1884, Gaetano Chierici, perhaps following the lead of Evans, renamed it in Italian as the eneo-litica, or "bronze–stone" transition. The phrase was never intended to mean that the period was the only one in which both bronze and stone were used. The Copper Age features the use of copper, excluding bronze; moreover, stone continued to be used throughout both the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The part -litica simply names the Stone Age as the point from which the transition began and is not another -lithic age.

Gaetano Chierici Italian painter

Gaetano Chierici (1838–1920) was an Italian painter, mainly of genre works.

Italy European country

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. Italy is located in Southern Europe, and it is sometimes considered as part of Western Europe. The country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. The concept has been mostly applied to Europe and the Ancient Near East, and, by analogy, also to other parts of the Old World.

Subsequently, British scholars used either Evans's "Copper Age" or the term "Eneolithic" (or Æneolithic), a translation of Chierici's eneo-litica. After several years, a number of complaints appeared in the literature that "Eneolithic" seemed to the untrained eye to be produced from e-neolithic, "outside the Neolithic", clearly not a definitive characterization of the Copper Age. Around 1900, many writers began to substitute Chalcolithic for Eneolithic, to avoid the false segmentation. It was then that the misunderstanding began among those who did not know Italian. The Chalcolithic was seen as a new -lithic age, a part of the Stone Age in which copper was used, which may appear paradoxical. Today, Copper Age, Eneolithic and Chalcolithic are used synonymously to mean Evans's original definition of Copper Age.[ citation needed ] The literature of European archaeology in general avoids the use of "Chalcolithic" (the term "Copper Age" is preferred), whereas Middle Eastern archaeologists regularly use it. "Chalcolithic" is not generally used by British prehistorians, who disagree as to whether it applies in the British context. [5]

Near East

Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel TimnaChalcolithicMine.JPG
Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel

The emergence of metallurgy may have occurred first in the Fertile Crescent. The earliest use of lead is documented here from the late Neolithic settlement of Yarim Tepe in Iraq,

"The earliest lead (Pb) finds in the ancient Near East are a 6th millennium BC bangle from Yarim Tepe in northern Iraq and a slightly later conical lead piece from Halaf period Arpachiyah, near Mosul. [6] As native lead is extremely rare, such artifacts raise the possibility that lead smelting may have begun even before copper smelting." [7] [8]

Copper smelting is also documented at this site at about the same time period (soon after 6000 BC), although the use of lead seems to precede copper smelting. Early metallurgy is also documented at the nearby site of Tell Maghzaliyah, which seems to be dated even earlier, and completely lacks pottery.

Analysis of stone tool assemblages from sites on the Tehran Plain, in Iran, has illustrated the effects of the introduction of copper working technologies on the in-place systems of lithic craft specialists and raw materials. Networks of exchange and specialized processing and production that had evolved during the Neolithic seem to have collapsed by the Middle Chalcolithic (c. 4500–3500 BC) and been replaced by the use of local materials by a primarily household-based production of stone tools. [9]

The Timna Valley contains evidence of copper mining in 7000–5000 BC. The process of transition from Neolithic to Chalcolithic in the Middle East is characterized in archaeological stone tool assemblages by a decline in high quality raw material procurement and use. This dramatic shift is seen throughout the region, including the Tehran Plain, Iran. Here, analysis of six archaeological sites determined a marked downward trend in not only material quality, but also in aesthetic variation in the lithic artefacts. Fazeli et al. use these results as evidence of the loss of craft specialisation caused by increased use of copper tools. [10]


An archaeological site in Serbia contains the oldest securely dated evidence of coppermaking from 7,500 years ago. The find in June 2010 extends the known record of copper smelting by about 800 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia and Europe at that time rather than spreading from a single source. [4]

In Serbia, a copper axe was found at Prokuplje, which indicates use of metal in Europe by 7,500 years ago (5500 BC), many years earlier than previously believed. [11] Knowledge of the use of copper was far more widespread than the metal itself. The European Battle Axe culture used stone axes modeled on copper axes, even with moulding carved in the stone. [12] Ötzi the Iceman, who was found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991 and whose remains were dated to about 3300 BC, was found with a Mondsee copper axe.

Painting of a Copper Age walled settlement, Los Millares, Iberia Los Millares recreacion cuadro.jpg
Painting of a Copper Age walled settlement, Los Millares, Iberia

Examples of Chalcolithic cultures in Europe include Vila Nova de São Pedro and Los Millares on the Iberian Peninsula. [13] Pottery of the Beaker people has been found at both sites, dating to several centuries after copper-working began there. The Beaker culture appears to have spread copper and bronze technologies in Europe, along with Indo-European languages. [14] In Britain, copper was used between the 25th and 22nd centuries BC, but some archaeologists do not recognise a British Chalcolithic because production and use was on a small scale. [15]

South Asia

According to Parpola (2005), [16] ceramic similarities between the Indus Civilization, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Iran during 4300–3300 BC of the Chalcolithic period suggest considerable mobility and trade. The term "Chalcolithic" has also been used in the context of the South Asian Stone Age. [17] In Bhirrana, the earliest Indus civilization site, copper bangles and arrowheads were found. The inhabitants of Mehrgarh in present-day Pakistan fashioned tools with local copper ore between 7000–3300 BC. [18] At the Nausharo site dated to 4500 years ago, a pottery workshop in province of Balochistan, Pakistan, were unearthed 12 blades or blade fragments. These blades are 12–18 cm (5–7 in) long and 1.2–2.0 cm (0.5–0.8 in) and relatively thin. Archaeological experiments show that these blades were made with a copper indenter and functioned as a potter's tool to trim and shape unfired pottery. Petrographic analysis indicates local pottery manufacturing, but also reveals the existence of a few exotic black-slipped pottery items from the Indus Valley. [19]

Pre-Columbian Americas

There was an independent invention of copper and bronze smelting first by Andean civilizations in South America extended later by sea commerce to the Mesoamerican civilization in West Mexico (see Metallurgy in pre-Columbian America and Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica).

The term "Chalcolithic" is also applied to American civilizations that already used copper and copper alloys thousands of years before the European migration. Besides cultures in the Andes and Mesoamerica, the Old Copper Complex, centered in the Upper Great Lakes region—present-day Michigan and Wisconsin in the United States—mined and fabricated copper as tools, weapons, and personal ornaments. [20] The evidence of smelting or alloying that has been found is subject to some dispute and a common assumption by archaeologists is that objects were cold-worked into shape. Artifacts from some of these sites have been dated to 4000–1000 BC, making them some of the oldest Chalcolithic sites in the world. [21] Furthermore, some archaeologists find artifactual and structural evidence of casting by Hopewellian and Mississippian peoples to be demonstrated in the archaeological record. [22]

East Asia

In the 5th millennium BC copper artifacts start to appear in East Asia, such as in the Jiangzhai and Hongshan cultures, but those metal artifacts were not widely used. [23]

Sub-Saharan Africa

In the region of the Aïr Mountains in Niger, we have the development of independent copper smelting between 3000 and 2500 BC. The process was not in a developed state, indicating smelting was not foreign. It became mature about 1500 BC. [24]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) ISBN   0-19-861263-X, p. 301: "Chalcolithic /,kælkəl'lɪθɪk/ adjectiveArchaeology of, relating to, or denoting a period in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, chiefly in the Near East and SE Europe, during which some weapons and tools were made of copper. This period was still largely Neolithic in character. Also called Eneolithic... Also called Copper Age - Origin early 20th cent.: from Greek khalkos 'copper' + lithos 'stone' + -ic".
  2. Aeneolothic was once fairly often spelled Æneolithic, but the habit of using a ligature in ae and oe words of Greek and Latin derivation (fœtid, etc.) largely died out by the mid-20th century.
  3. "Serbian site may have hosted first copper makers". UCL Institute of Archaeology. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  4. 1 2 Bruce Bower (July 17, 2010). "Serbian site may have hosted first copper makers". ScienceNews. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  5. Allen, Michael J.; et al., eds. (2012). Is There a British Chalcolithic?: People, Place and Polity in the later Third Millennium (summary). Oxbow. ISBN   9781842174968.
  6. Moorey 1994: 294
  7. Craddock 1995: 125
  8. Potts, Daniel T. (ed.). "Northern Mesopotamia". A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. 1. John Wiley & Sons, 2012. p. 302. ISBN   978-1-4443-6077-6.
  9. Fazeli, H.; Donahue, R.E.; Coningham, R.A.E. (2002). "Stone Tool Production, Distribution and Use during the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic on the Tehran Plain, Iran". Journal of Persian Studies. 40: 1–14. JSTOR   4300616.
  10. Fazeli, H.; Donahue, R.E; Coningham, R.A.E (2002). "Stone Tool Production, Distribution and use during the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic on the Tehran Plain, Iran". Iran. 40: 1–14. doi:10.2307/4300616. JSTOR   4300616.
  12. J. Evans, 1897
  13. C.M.Hogan, 2007
  14. D.W.Anthony, The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world (2007).
  15. Miles, The Tale of the Axe, pp. 363, 423, n. 15
  16. A.Parpola, 2005
  17. Vasant Shinde and Shweta Sinha Deshpande, "Crafts and Technologies of the Chalcolithic People of South Asia: An Overview" Indian Journal of History of Science, 50.1 (2015) 42-54
  18. Possehl, Gregory L. (1996)
  19. Méry, S; Anderson, P; Inizan, M.L.; Lechavallier, M; Pelegrin, J (2007). "A pottery workshop with flint tools on blades knapper with copper at Nausharo (Indus civilisation ca. 2500 BC)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 34 (7): 1098–1116. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.10.002.
  20. R. A. Birmingham and L. E. Eisenberg. Indian Mounds of Wisconsin. (Madison, Univ Wisconsin Press. 2000.) pp.75-77.
  21. T.C.Pleger, 2000
  22. Neiburger, E. J. 1987. Did Midwest Pre-Columbia Indians Cast Metal? A New Look. Central States Archaeological Journal 34(2), 60-74.
  23. Peterson, Christian E.; Shelach, Gideon (September 2012). "Jiangzhai: Social and economic organization of a Middle Neolithic Chinese village". Journal of Anthropological Archaeology . 31 (3): 241–422. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2012.01.007.
  24. Ehret, Christopher (2002). The Civilizations of Africa. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, pp. 136, 137 ISBN   0-8139-2085-X.

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